What We Write & Why We Write It

Warning: this post contains morbidity. Skip to the last paragraph if you're feeling excessively chirpy.

Like most scribo-blogsters, I don't particularly see this as a forum for a great deal of personal stuff. It's mainly about the writing. But sometimes personal stuff sheds light on our writing, and vice versa. So...

I'm really not a big fan of death. In the grand scheme of things, it just strikes me as A Bad Idea from whoever the universe's creator(s) happened to be. Admittedly, only suicide bombers are death afficionados, but over the last few years (especially since my close friend Ray Palmer died unexpectedly, in 2002) I've become aware that I'm perhaps more preoccupied with the subject than most folks. Your average person seems able to push death to the very back of their brain alongside tax returns and merrily get on with life like it'll last forever. While I envy that ability to a certain extent, it's possible that my preoccupation might make me appreciate life - and people - a tad more, from time to time. Swings, and indeed, roundabouts.

Since high school, I've recognised horror films as positive cathartic therapy. A good friend of mine's father died, and I had no idea what to say to him. We never spoke directly about his loss, but the very day he returned to school, he said he wanted us to have a horror movie marathon. We would watch the goriest, nastiest films available, mostly courtesy of third-generation VHS copies of Demons, Zombie Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox or whatever the most forbidden, hell-spun flicks seemed to be at the time. It clearly made my friend feel better, even though we had yet to discover booze.

Yesterday was a family funeral for me, which was thankfully less grim than I'd feared - partly due to meeting some very cool Arnopps who I'd never met in adult life. But as I watched that coffin being lowered into the ground, I was vividly reminded why horror is my genre of choice. It helps people like me deal with unpleasant, troubling subject matter, bringing it out into the open, red-raw and dripping. Confronting the dark side in a vicarious manner makes it far less intimidating. Perhaps that's why I often get defensive about horror censorship or people deriding the genre. I'm basically saying, "Leave my therapy alone".

So that helps explain why most of my writing will always revolve around death, fear, obsession and indeed wanton destruction. Now, I'd like to know which themes/genres/sub-genres you're preoccupied with, along with any reasons you'd care to give. Fire away...


William Gallagher said...

Sorry for your loss, Jason.


Lucy said...

Horror. For the same reason as you but also because I grew up with few friends and was told, daily, how ugly I was, how I would never amount to much, how I would never have a family of my own and how I was actually A FREAK. This led me into the arms of two damaging fellas who did their best to finish off where the school bullies left off and into the beginning of my adult life where I wasn't too sure what the hell was going on.

So I killed them in my head and what's more, I killed the girl I was before and generally only refer to her in the third person. She doesn't exist anymore, they cannot get her. Phoenix Lucy! Yay!

Sorry to hear about your loss Jase and I'm glad it wasn't as grim as you feared. Sometimes getting together as a family, even at a funeral, can be comforting.

Lianne said...

Sorry to hear of your loss Jason.

Hmmm, recurring themes - death, loss, separation. All that lovely stuff. Preferred genre would be drama or rites of passage/coming of age I suppose as the journey there is usually towards some sort of acceptance and I'm interested in the ways that people cope with (or don't cope with)those kind of losses.

Jon Peacey said...

Please accept my condolences, Jason. Sorry for your loss.

What do I write? Why? I always come back to the same things: death, loss, grief, mental pain, seeking answers, madness, defiance of bullies (from State to Family), anger. Genre tends to be horror-lite, thriller, drama and I always come back to vampires. I have a fair idea where most of this comes from, but you'll forgive me, I hope, if I don't share too much.

Why? The simple answer is I don't know... stuff comes into my head and demands to be written down (or sometimes to be painted): whether I do it justice or not is another matter.

MJ said...

Firstly, sorry to hear about your loss.

On a sort of connected note - aren't funerals bizarre?

I seem to write about odd people, those that are outside the norm. Most of my work falls into black comedy or thriller, often with a supernatural twist. I'm with Jon on the vampire thing... not quite sure why, but they keep popping up!

I lost a parent 2 years ago, and oddly, since then, I choose not to watch anything that's too horror-ish, graphic or gory. I even had to leave 'Last King of Scotland' because towards the end it was getting too grotesque - what's that about?

martin said...

Sorry to hear of your loss, Jason.

I write comedy cos you've got to laugh, drama cos sometimes you can't, fantasy cos you've got to escape from this world sometimes, and horror cos we're none of us are getting out of this world alive. And Westerns cos I like Horses.

Memo to self. Really must pick a genre.

Elinor said...

Condolences for your loss Jason.

I write because I have to. It makes me a calmer person. It fills the howling void at the core of my being or at least allows me to look at it. I would echo Lucy's post in that it does help you deal with earlier incarnations of yourself that you don't need anymore.

So, Horror is an excellent genre for that as it can be transformative, also Sci-Fi as it allows for future change.

Andy Conway said...

My condolences, mate. But I hope you found the funeral as cathartic as I always find them (although I'm probably thinking more of the wake and the cathartic effects of drinking one's own body weight in Jamesons).

Stories about characters in the present haunted by events from the past are my particular thing, and because I'm currently writing a novel about my mother's death to dementia last year I'm finally discovering why that's such a common trope in everything I've always written.

Ah well.

(reaches for Jamesons)

Dom Carver said...

Most of my scripts follow the theme of redemption. I don't really know why, maybe I feel guilty about a past deed or something.

Annie Rhiannon said...

Sorry to hear about the death in your family.

My favourite topic to write about is getting dumped and / or cheated on. I think I really must move on now, hey.

Oli said...

Hi Jason,

Sorry, this is a bit late, but I was sorry to hear about your recent loss. Hope you're feeling okay.

Cheers, Oli.